Culture, l2 self, and emotion in the digital realm: developing learners’ interest in continuing to study Spanish

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University of Alabama Libraries

The present study centers on developing cross-cultural awareness using contextualized cultural projects. Drawing on the ubiquity of social media in learners’ lives, I used Pinterest as a means of exploring real-world cultural topics and leading learners to visualize themselves interacting in the target culture. To evaluate learners’ subjective experiences, I adopted a qualitative approach and collected data through pre- and post-study questionnaires, cultural projects, journal entries, and a focus group. Twenty-eight undergraduate students enrolled in two intensive review introductory Spanish courses collaboratively completed two cultural projects. In each project, they worked in groups to explore the target culture on Pinterest. Then they used the information from Pinterest to complete a written activity and an oral activity. After each cultural project, learners wrote an individual journal entry (in English) to reflect more deeply on what they had learned. Following an iterative approach (Charmaz, 2006), I did a line-by-line coding of all written data produced on Pinterest and in learners’ journal entries. I developed categories and themes based off the recurring words and phrases I found and analyzed the patterns through the lens of Gee’s (2011) theory of D/discourse. I also used descriptive statistics to analyze the data produced on the pre- and post-study questionnaires and triangulated learners’ responses with data from Pinterest and journal entries. Findings revealed that in the first cultural project, all 28 learners enacted a jet-setting tourist when exploring the target culture on Pinterest. However, once they had time to reflect, they began to progress in their cross-cultural awareness. In the second cultural project, results showed that when learners made emotional connections with the target culture, their cross-cultural awareness and interest in continuing to study Spanish increased. Findings suggest that cross-cultural awareness was not a straightforward progression nor did learners move toward cross-cultural awareness at the same pace. Instead, results indicate that cross-cultural awareness is a recursive process. Additionally, findings show that Pinterest served as a “narrative hook” (Freadman, 2014, p. 380) and piqued learners’ interests in culture. However, an integral component in cultivating a deeper, more profound understanding of culture in foreign language learning is reflection.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Language, Linguistics